A Mitzvah A Day Keeps The Flooding Away
by Rabbi Tzvi Alyesh
This week, we read the story of Noach, his family, the Great Flood, and the Ark that saved them. God felt the world as it was had lost its right to continue. But why? What was the mortal sin that left God compelled to flood the world and save Noach, his family, and select pairs of animals? Some say theft, some say adultery. I think we can find the answer right here in our home town of Denver.
About a year ago, in the fall of 2021, a shockwave rippled through the Denver Jewish community. A group of teenagers, driven by God knows what, embarked on a crime spree. They stole cars, assaulted innocents, and murdered a young Jewish man. The young man, a student in the very Yeshiva that sits across the street from my home, was to be my study partner (chavruta) for the year. So the attack felt personal to me. But in truth, the attack felt personal to all of us. There was what Shakespeare’s Macbeth might call “a breach in nature.” Nothing would ever be the same. People were afraid to take the walks they had previously taken for granted. The serene Shabbat stroll was now an exercise fraught with post-traumatic stress.
And that was that. It simply has not been the same since. Yes, the community has taken steps toward healing, and yes, we find peace in our walks once more, but our violence-free bubble has been pierced, and it cannot fully be reconstituted. We, as a community, shall bear this scar for many years yet. And some scars, though they may heal, can never fully disappear.
The world of Noach and his contemporaries was rife with scars. Adultery was rampant, thievery was ubiquitous, and perverse intimate relations (human and animal alike) ruled the day. It is a Jewish custom that during the mourning of a deceased beloved, we rend our clothing. But in the days of Noach, the fabric of society was not merely torn; It was shredded. The Almighty saw no way forward other than to start anew.
I do not advocate for a new Flood, but I do hope that we take that warning seriously. The cornerstones of our society are based in trust. Falsehood, adultery, and deception shake our foundations. (Indeed, the Torah shows us that thievery alone was the chief reason that precipitated the Flood). Sometimes we can withstand the shake and heal from it. Sometimes, we simply cannot. Treasure the relationships you hold dear, but be sure to remain honest and true to your values and convictions. That is how we keep our communities tight, and keep the surface of the planet nice and dry. We may think we would be safe from a global flood up here in our mile high city, but that is just not so.
Shabbat shalom everyone!